Nexus Cards Worth the Wait

by Ronalee Carey Law

April 2023

On March 16, 2020, I was in the Calgary airport, waiting for a flight to Ottawa after spending the weekend with a childhood friend. That same day, international flights were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Calgary airport was a zoo

– security lines were long, and though I thought I’d arrived early enough for a domestic flight, it looked like I would miss my boarding call.

I went back to the Air Canada counter and explained my predicament. A staff person walked with me to the security screening checkpoint and took me to the ‘trusted traveller’ line, which is for airline crew and airport workers, Canadian Armed Forces and US military members, and Nexus card holders. There was no one in the line. I was permitted to enter this location and didn’t miss my flight.

The thing was, I had already applied for a Nexus card in April 2019. I received conditional approval only a month later. My next step was to schedule an appointment at a Nexus enrollment centre where I would provide biometrics (have my photograph and digital fingerprints taken.) Wait times for appointments were long. I had an appointment scheduled for October 2020 at the Ottawa airport, but due to the pandemic, all appointments were cancelled. Eventually, enrollment centres in the USA began to reopen, but a dispute over whether or not US Customs and Border Protection officials could carry guns while in Canada kept Canadian centres closed. This March, it was announced that all airport enrollment centres would be reopening. However, as I had no plans to fly to the USA, I scheduled an appointment at the Lansdowne, Ontario / Alexandria Bay, New York border crossing instead.

My interview confirmation instructions advised me to bring numerous documents, including my passport, driver’s license, birth certificate and proof of employment. However, only my passport and driver’s license were reviewed. I’d also brought reading material, assuming that I’d have to wait for my turn, but I only got through half of a National Geographic article, and that was only because I was a few minutes early. The Canadian portion of the interview involved confirming my application details and updating my address. I was then directed to drive into the USA, where the second part of my interview was held, and my biometrics were taken.

I am now waiting for my Nexus card to arrive in the mail, having learned a few days ago that my application was approved. The application fee was only USD $50, and the drive to the border crossing was under two hours. I feel it was worth the effort to facilitate travel in the future, both inside Canada and to the USA, as many land border crossings have special lanes for Nexus card holders. Nexus card holders are also given expedited processing at Global Entry kiosks upon entry to the USA.

Canadian permanent residents who have been in Canada legally for three years or longer are eligible for the Nexus program. Applicants must not have violated customs, immigration or agriculture laws and cannot have been convicted of a criminal offence in any country for which a pardon was not granted. The current processing time for Nexus cards is 12-14 months. It’s worth the wait.